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Can you become a fat burner (or fat-adapted) while still eating carbs?

Answered on February 26, 2014
Created February 24, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Hey guys,

I'm an active 20 year old female student and from my past experience I tolerate carbs quite well. However over the past couple of weeks I've been getting highs and lows in blood sugar which is affecting my hunger, moods and energy levels which I think is due to too much sugar in my diet (a lot of fruits and more dairy than usual) and not enough fats.

Can one become fat adapted while still eating carbs (say 150-200g per day)?

How long does it usually take to become fat adapted?

Once you are a fat-burner is it easy to fall out of it and switch back to being a sugar burner again?

Also if anyone has any guides/advice/tips about becoming fat adapted they would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

76e82f76e7e3ed9747c980b50fc51b25

(229)

on February 26, 2014
at 05:15 PM

30g of carbs for an active, carb tolerating 20 year old sounds a little extreme IMO. Sure maybe she could drop a bit from 150, say to 100. But keto isn't always the answer.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 26, 2014
at 01:26 AM

fat adaptation is real -- it just happened about a million years ago.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 26, 2014
at 01:07 AM

I know the popular theory… evidence that supports it is lacking.

Medium avatar

(58)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:17 PM

thanks for the link!

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 03:45 PM

Good Point. No use communicating with a standard set of definitions. If you're not right you can just Wikiality it and triple the population of elephants in Africa.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:49 PM

Except that in another answer you said "Opinions on whether super-low-carb is really necessary would be useful, bearing in mind that I am a 20 year old female student who trains for athletics (high jump and triple jump) 3-4 times a week and generally has quite an active lifestyle." which indicates you do quite a lot of exercise that requires carbs.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:45 PM

It's simple, you can't burn fat while your insulin is high. If you're skinny, you can eat whatever level of carbs you want to eat and not have a problem. If you're obese and previously on a SAD, going ketogenic helps.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:44 PM

+1 very nice!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:06 PM

Diet isn't the be all and end all. Jack Lalanne was what I would call fat-adapted on a very high carb diet. He accomplished this with exercise. Which would you rather be as you age? Bob Atkins at 72 on the high fat keto path, or Jack Lalanne at 96 on the high carb exercise path? What worked for Bob in his 40's left him pretty jowly looking by his late 60's.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:14 PM

Not sure I've seen evidence that there's a "fat adaptation" advantage when losing adipose.

I also don't think performance athletes do VLC, they have no reason to.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:12 PM

I don't know where you're getting this 60-70% carbohydrate number. I've never seen baseline macros in studies approaching that range. Typically baseline carbs are 45-50% rather consistently. My own carbohydrate consumption is higher than the average paleo, ballpark of 30-40%, but only slightly lower than average diet. Even at my strictest, I never entered ketosis, never dipping below 50g/20% carbohydrates.

Now, why do you doubt my metabolism isn't normal? Probably better than average I would guess.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 11:32 AM

I down voted. You don't need deep ketosis at all. But all the same, if your fat metabolism is faster, should that not make the adipose energy more available during exercise for burning?

Cf08ad26759fdd206a2c9f9385080a57

(995)

on February 25, 2014
at 09:43 AM

Wilder's formula from the 1920's for the ketogenic potential of a diet is [(0.9*fat) + (0.46*Protein)] / [carbs + (0.1*fat) + (0.54*protein)] A ratio over 1.5 becomes increasingly ketogenic. BCAAs, MCTs, and lysine + leucine are ketogenic. Timing carbohydrate intake around lower liver glycogen stores is another way to increase your carb consumption while staying keto.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:56 AM

How much carbs do you eat (grams or percent calories), out of curiosity? I doubt your metabolic state is "normal", though lol, the norm is leaning obesity fuelled by inactivity and 60-70% carbs calorically (across all ages). Interesting mention of youth though, when you are young you have a higher basal metabolic rate, and higher muscle mass (and higher level of activity). I remember when I didn't have to do a thing to remain lean. That might be why you see no benefit to moderating carb intake?

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:49 AM

I'd like to just say - what a silly argument this is. Regardless of who is right, its irrelevant to my answer! Everyone burns fats to different degrees.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:48 AM

Higher than normal levels, such as when you skip a meal, go to sleep at night?

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:47 AM

defined by who? In what context? Studies? Are we in a study right now?

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:46 AM

Yeah that thing about studies and hormonal profile is an interesting assertion. What would happen to the innuit women, or the massai, or mankind during the ice age? I'd like to see some of these studies.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:44 AM

There's a certain appeal to being optimized for using ketones, when it comes time to burn adipose though (you'd do so more efficiently, which may help). But beyond that, there is an adaption phase when lowering carb intake, because the SAD diet is so absurdly high in carbs. This produces symptoms, like lethargy and lowered performance, and headaches, sometimes. I think for these people, the adaption process is important, as it might be for performance atheletes trying to do VLC. Do you disagree with this last part?

8819942abbe81717f2f5a3739a464823

(15)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:48 AM

I'm interested in what you say about low carb damaging womens hormones. Can you point me in the direction of more info?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:12 AM

I deny that being fat adapted is a big deal or necessary in anyway. You metabolize your diet first, and then you're burning just fat.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:08 AM

Well, I've never forced myself through the low-carb flu, not sure why I'd want to. Much prefer being in a normal metabolic state, consuming enough carbohydrate to avoid glucose synthesis. Maybe that's just my youth and non-diabetes talking.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:32 AM

If you want to use Wikipedia as your "general usage" than fine. But at least check the references. In this case it links to a free-dictionary definition. If you go to the page, the actual definition is: "ketosis /ke·to·sis/ (ke-to´sis) accumulation of excessive amounts of ketone bodies in body tissues and fluids, occurring when fatty acids are incompletely metabolized.") Incorrect interpretation is not "general usage". So wiki is wrong -- crazy.

.5 mM is typically defined as the threshold for subclinical ketosis. clinical ketosis starts around 1.5mM - 2mM depending on the study.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:31 AM

"Ketone bodies are created at moderate levels in everyone's bodies, such as during sleep and other times when no carbohydrates are available.

However, when ketogenesis is happening at higher-than-normal levels, the body is said to be in a state of ketosis"

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenesis#Pathology

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:13 AM

Its not often I end up in an actual semantics argument with someone! :P

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:12 AM

The dictionary definition of the word makes no mention of a specific amount, so general useage of the word does not refer to a specific amount. The term elevated, used in those definitions, is relative of course. Perhaps your talking about some specific fitness or medical definition? Fair enough, but that's not the general meaning of the word, as you can see.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 01:06 AM

yes elevated as in B-OHB >= 0.5mM. Not a binary some ketones or no ketones.

Ketosis is very different from burning fat (via adipose or food) for energy. It's like the difference between running and walking. Both are bipedal locomotion acts. But one is fundamentally different from the other.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:58 AM

Ketosis /kɨˈtsɨs/ is a state of elevated levels of ketone bodies in the body. - wikipedia.

a condition characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body - oxford.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:55 AM

You don't have food in your stomach, or sugar from it in your blood all day every day you know! At some point in the day, everybodies body must rely on burning adipose fat, or we would all be dead.

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:54 AM

So you deny there is such a thing as adapting to burning fat?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:43 AM

I was tempted to downvote, but to each his or her own. If you want to stay in ketosis forever that's your business. There are other ways to burn fat effectively though.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:29 AM

so if you eat fat and burn the fat you eat for energy it is beneficial over eating carbs and burning the carbs for energy how? 90g of carbs = 360 kC energy. 40g of fat = 360 kC energy. Energy is energy. Personally I lost far more weight once I increased my carb intake.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:22 AM

Not true. Ketosis is a defined threshold (typically B-OHB >= .5 mM). Few people cross that threshold unintentionally. Simply burning fat into ketones is NOT ketosis

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:18 AM

It's not about one or the other, it's about metabolic flexibility to burn whatever you give your boys efficiently without going through low carb flu

7160a3fb485cb0af573c0292fdb08144

(35)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:25 PM

It all depends on the person. Some can be in ketosis at 100g of carbs per day. It depends on size and activity level. Others have to keep in 25g or below to be in ketosis.

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11 Answers

0
618fc5298c4a96b817c4918c795a875f

(1217)

on February 26, 2014
at 10:24 PM

Cant seem to comment - but here is my response to some comments about my earlier answer:

I really don't want to get into a posting studies battle - too lame. If you really want to investigate the role of carbs on hormonal production, there is lots of stuff available for you to read - I'm not here to be your librarian. But I will say that Paul Jaminet has sifted through alot of these studies and you might want to read his work at The Perfect Health Diet if you are really interested. My issue is more about - why constant ketosis? You do you need to be a 24 hour fat burning machine? I mean really, nobody is going out and hunting wooly mammoths - no matter how paleo and grok you want to be. Are you needing to be a fat burning machine to go and hunt your kettlebells and push around big tires? To what end? We need some fat - we need a it as a reserve. Nothing in excess is good, and this current obsession with ketosis without purpose is a little disturbing. But whatever - to each his own!

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on February 26, 2014
at 01:48 AM

There's a difference between NO carbs and LOW carbs or LOWer carbs (than SAD). There may be some people who recommend no carbs, but hopefully they are few and far between. Then there are people who do fine on lowER carbs than the SAD--they just need to rein in their carbs a bit to see weight loss benefits.

Most people who need to lose weight may benefit from LOW carbs, but what exactly low carbs means to YOU may vary. For some people it's VLC (generally 50 or fewer grams of carbs), other people do fine on up to 100 or even 150 grams of carbs. You may have to experiment to find your own "sweet spot"--forgive the term "sweet". Your activity level, starting weight and fitness may all influence how many carbs you can tolerate and still lose weight. Of course, there's much more benefit from eating carbs from vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, and "safe starches" rather than sugary treats and grains.

Full "fat burning adaptation" may be require ketosis--generally VLC plus low protein, high fat. But you may still be able to lose weight and feel better without being in full ketosis.

I think people also tend to confuse the lousy "carb flu" symptoms you get in the short term by lowering carbs with not tolerating low carbs altogether. Sometimes you have to power through until your body adjusts to the big change in metabolic fuel, but if you've tried more than just a few days, with adequate hydration, salt, and potassium, and you still feel badly, then maybe low carb is not for you. But some people give up before they pass through the adjustment period and conclude it's not for them without an honest try. Their loss.

0
3966119f28897cda79dc77838198cec7

(0)

on February 26, 2014
at 12:31 AM

It does take some time to become "fat adapted" but it's progressive. In other words, it's a gradual process. You can become relatively fat adapted in a few weeks. However, if you have issues digesting larger amounts of fat and it's not going well after a few weeks, consider that you may have gall bladder/bile issues. Also, it's not necessary to be ultra low carb to get fat adapted. Depending on your weight, stay under 75g to 100g per day.

0
Bebe9f4d1ced35909e326b3d6287b3b1

on February 25, 2014
at 09:34 AM

I am also a 20 year old female student and have to say I've found that going low-carb just isn't right for me. I also get problems from eating too much sugar (insulin fluctuations, high and low blood sugar etc) but find that if I focus on protein and fat with a little bit of carbs I am satiated and have energy. If I cut out the carbs I get huge headaches and can't concentrate which is obviously a little detrimental to doing a university degree and/or exercise. I'd second what ivymcivy said. Cut out the sugar, but don't just ditch the carbs entirely.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:49 PM

Except that in another answer you said "Opinions on whether super-low-carb is really necessary would be useful, bearing in mind that I am a 20 year old female student who trains for athletics (high jump and triple jump) 3-4 times a week and generally has quite an active lifestyle." which indicates you do quite a lot of exercise that requires carbs.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:31 AM

I became an effective fat-burner while eating at least 200 grams of carbs a day. I did it with sub-aerobic exercise, which preferentially increases metabolism of fats. Aerobic exercise has a critical deficiency for weight loss: it is very effective for burning carbs, but only becomes effective for fat-burning when the carbs are depleted. Most non-athletes don't exercise aerobically for long enough periods to start metabolizing any fat.

I did this without thinking about it (by walking at every opportunity) and steadily lost 2 pounds a week for 6 months. It was only later that I realized why this kind of exercise was so effective. The main drawback is the time commitment needed to make it work. Walking 10 miles a day takes 2-3 hours. And it works best if you're obese and have a lot of fat to lose.

Here's a link to someone who takes it further, using a heart rate monitor to stay below aerobic.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/larry-fitness-training-and-sports/using-heart-rate-monitors-to-burn-fat/

It's something every paleo follower should be doing as a matter of course. Hunt-and-gather behavior defined paleo life every day, with ketosis only when the carbs ran out.

Medium avatar

(58)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:17 PM

thanks for the link!

0
8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:02 AM

You'll adapt to what you eat. Everybody spends part of the day in ketosis, some more than others. But if your talking about the adjustment period, carb flu etc, your metabolism shifting (if your experiencing less performance in exercise etc), moderate carb probably adapts a little slower, but then moderate carb is probably less of an adjustment in the first place!

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:22 AM

Not true. Ketosis is a defined threshold (typically B-OHB >= .5 mM). Few people cross that threshold unintentionally. Simply burning fat into ketones is NOT ketosis

0
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 24, 2014
at 11:44 PM

Fat adapted, sugar burner… silliness. Our bodies are always metabolizing some ratio of fat/carbohydrate. Ketosis is another thing entirely, why would you want to to be in ketosis though?

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:18 AM

It's not about one or the other, it's about metabolic flexibility to burn whatever you give your boys efficiently without going through low carb flu

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:54 AM

So you deny there is such a thing as adapting to burning fat?

0
618fc5298c4a96b817c4918c795a875f

(1217)

on February 24, 2014
at 09:25 PM

Why do you want to become fat adapted? Is there a reason for you to be in hardcore ketosis? It may not be the right thing for you, if you tolerate carbs well. There4 is alot of evidence that going too low carb will damage a woman's hormonal profile, and that can be VERY hard to come back from. If you are doing well on carbs, and you think the problems you've been having lately comes from sugar, cut out the sugar. See how you do. Don't jump to eliminating carbs too quickly if you tolerate them - you could be trying to fix something that isn't broken. Best of luck!

8b9c2dcd3dfc929a0428d3d6dac4918e

(70)

on February 25, 2014
at 04:46 AM

Yeah that thing about studies and hormonal profile is an interesting assertion. What would happen to the innuit women, or the massai, or mankind during the ice age? I'd like to see some of these studies.

8819942abbe81717f2f5a3739a464823

(15)

on February 25, 2014
at 02:48 AM

I'm interested in what you say about low carb damaging womens hormones. Can you point me in the direction of more info?

0
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 24, 2014
at 07:05 PM

I stayed in ketosis while consuming 90g of carbs per day. So you can be in keotsis while eating a decent amount of carbs. But you burn body fat all the time -- so yes even at 1550-200g per day you can burn fat -- but you likely will not be in ketosis.

7160a3fb485cb0af573c0292fdb08144

(35)

on February 24, 2014
at 08:25 PM

It all depends on the person. Some can be in ketosis at 100g of carbs per day. It depends on size and activity level. Others have to keep in 25g or below to be in ketosis.

Cf08ad26759fdd206a2c9f9385080a57

(995)

on February 25, 2014
at 09:43 AM

Wilder's formula from the 1920's for the ketogenic potential of a diet is [(0.9*fat) + (0.46*Protein)] / [carbs + (0.1*fat) + (0.54*protein)] A ratio over 1.5 becomes increasingly ketogenic. BCAAs, MCTs, and lysine + leucine are ketogenic. Timing carbohydrate intake around lower liver glycogen stores is another way to increase your carb consumption while staying keto.

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on February 24, 2014
at 06:26 PM

No, but you can get some help by using coconut oil. Coconut oil (make sure it's not refined in any way, you'd want virgin), is about half MCT oil - which gets converted to ketones.

Whether or not you consume carbs, if you consume MCT oil, or coconut oil, you'll make ketones. The trouble is, until you're adapted to burning fat, you won't make use of the ketones. Don't chug coconut oil, start of very small like half a teaspoon and work your way up. Too much, too quick, and you'll spend quite a lot of hours on the toilet wishing you hadn't caused yourself disasterpants.

It takes about a week or so, you may experience a "low carb flu", this is quite normal, and you may get ketone breath (smells like acetone), once the ketone breath goes away, you'll know for sure that you're burning any ketones you produce.

If you have bad cravings for sugar and carbs, you migth want to supplement with L-Glutamine and ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid). Take ALA as directed on the bottle. But L-Glutamine you can take whenever you feel a craving for something sweet. It crosses the blood brain barrier and quiets down sugar cravings. Buy it as a powder, not as pills. You can mix it in with a drink.

If you feel low energy, a teaspoon of coconut oil can help.

A common hack to get you going is The Bulletproof coffee. You can make it with any good quality coffee beans, any grassfed butter and any virgin coconut oil. Be sure to use a blender to make this, or you'll have an oil slick. And never, ever, sweeten it.

0
Medium avatar

on February 24, 2014
at 05:57 PM

“Can you become a fat burner (or fat-adapted) while still eating carbs?”

Yes and no.. but mainly no. Generally speaking..you need to use up the 150-200g of carbs you consume daily before your body will use your fat stores for energy. Everyone is different but in my humble opinion you are consuming too many grams of carbohydrates to be an efficient fat burner. This is evidenced by your fluctuating insulin levels ie your comment “hunger, moods and energy levels”. Plus once your glycogen stores are full, those extra carbs spill over as stored fat.

“Once you are a fat-burner is it easy to fall out of it..”

Absolutely.

“anyone has any guides/advice/tips about becoming fat adapted..”

You say you are very active and that is awesome. Keep your carb grams at around 30g per day and see how you feel after a cpl weeks. If you really want to kick things into high gear.. look into intermittent fasting.

Best of luck

Medium avatar

(10611)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:43 AM

I was tempted to downvote, but to each his or her own. If you want to stay in ketosis forever that's your business. There are other ways to burn fat effectively though.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on February 25, 2014
at 12:29 AM

so if you eat fat and burn the fat you eat for energy it is beneficial over eating carbs and burning the carbs for energy how? 90g of carbs = 360 kC energy. 40g of fat = 360 kC energy. Energy is energy. Personally I lost far more weight once I increased my carb intake.

76e82f76e7e3ed9747c980b50fc51b25

(229)

on February 26, 2014
at 05:15 PM

30g of carbs for an active, carb tolerating 20 year old sounds a little extreme IMO. Sure maybe she could drop a bit from 150, say to 100. But keto isn't always the answer.

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